Burnout: Week 3 Discussion Guide

Nature is beautiful.  In some of us, nature has the ability to put our souls at rest and ground us in ways that feel restorative.  From epic hikes through national parks to just relaxing in the backyard or at a park, it feels good to be outside.  God designed some truly wonderful creatures, feelings, and experiences.

God also placed unique aspects in nature that can be physical manifestations of His words and instructions in the Bible.  Take for example something in the insect world called the Rhopalocera or its better-known common name:  the butterfly.  This insect has 4 stages of life in which it completes a full metamorphosis: from larvae to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

There are many biblical analogies that can be drawn from this metamorphosis, but the one we should focus on this week is the chrysalis stage.  It is in this stage that the caterpillar spins an encasement, rests for a period of time, and then emerges as something completely new.  This stage is a unique aspect in nature that shows us how rest can be a restorative recreation.

This is a dramatic example taken from nature, but can you think of any other personal experiences that demonstrate how rest can be restorative?  What was it about those experiences that impacted you most? Share with the group.
This week, we will be discussing how rest, and more specifically the Sabbath, can be a joyous restorative recreation.  But first, let’s open with a prayer.

Opening Prayer
Lord, Thank you for bringing us together today.  We are grateful for this time to study your word and to feel your presence.  Please bless this discussion and guide us towards deeper understanding.  In your name we pray, amen.

The Head
The reading this week is focused on a time when God gave Moses and the Israelites instructions to give the land itself a Sabbath.  In some ways, God wanted to show his people a physical example of restoration and recreation.

This reading is from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus starting at verse one in chapter 25:  
The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten."

·        Why is the seventh year significant in the context of this bible reading?

·        God gave these instructions just before the Israelites reached their promised land.  Before this moment in time, the Israelites had been wandering the wilderness for 40 years.  In what way would observing a Sabbath on the seventh year be similar to their time in the wilderness following God’s instructions?
·        You can imagine that six years of labor back then must have taken a heavy toll on the land and most likely the people as well.  In that burnout rhythm of life, people stay focused on productivity and the responsibility of providing.  What benefits would there have been by observing a full seventh year of Sabbath for the land?  What benefits would there have been for the people?

The Heart
·        In the larger context of this week’s reading, there is an underlying notion that the busyness of life keeps us away from our relationship with God.  It’s almost like there is an intentional effort by forces at work to drive a wedge between us and wear us down to the point of burnout.  What aspects of an intentional Sabbath help restore our relationship with God?

·        There is a tendency for our minds to wander when we are left to our own devices. Those rabbit holes run deep and there are tunnel networks between them.  So, when we set aside moments to quietly observe a Sabbath and Rest, what does that experience look like for you? Where do your thoughts go? How do you ensure you are connecting with God and not aimlessly thinking about the day?

·        The verses in Psalm 46 run together like a joyful song to God, however one section of verse 10 seems to resonate strongest: “Be still, and know that I am God”.  It’s a mic drop moment. In what ways does this verse help when the heavy gets to be too much?

The Hands
There is a blog article that was published in Psychology Today back in 2011 titled “5 Steps for Being Present”.  In summary those 5 steps are:
1.      Take a breath – in and out slowly through the nose because breathing from the mouth triggers a subtle anxiety response.
2.      What are you doing right now? – as a calm correspondence with the breath.  Focus on the now.
3.      Be a witness – observe it, name it, bear witness all at once.  The moment is now.
4.      Let the rest go – travel light, don’t bring it with you
 5.      Come back to the breath – unbind yourself from the shackles of the past.
This blog is a quick read if you get a moment, and the 5 steps are an interesting exercise as they could be something to practice in combination with a Sabbath.   Try it out if you are looking for a way to begin.  It might be a helpful focusing tool before prayer to channel your attention toward God.  Maybe try it out now before this closing prayer.

Closing Prayer
Hey God, thank you for the gift of Sabbath.  Thank you for giving us verses in the Bible that provide guidance for staying connected to you.  Please forgive us when we fall short of this guidance.  Please show us a righteous path and provide us opportunities to help others.   In your name we pray Lord, Amen.

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